June 29 HAPPY BIRTHDAY Vickie Simmons

HAPPY BIRTHDAY Vickie Simmons born, June 29, 1954 a member of The New Coon Creek Girls.
A native of Berea, Kentucky, Vicki began her musical training at age 6 on piano. An extremely rare optic malady resulted in the instant loss of most of her vision at 12 years of age. A year later she became interested in guitar, bought her own instrument and began to play in a band with her uncle Jay Begley at family reunions and later at college get-togethers. “It was straight-ahead bluegrass; totally traditional. I became obsessed with it and loved it and I still do,” she says with burgeoning sincerity. “Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs have been my heroes since day one.”
Prior to being graduated from Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Vicki had the opportunity to study the old style of five- string banjo pickin’ that is usually referred to as “drop thumb” or “clawhammer” style under the tutelage of the legendary Lily May Ledford who was conducting an artist-in-residence seminar at nearby Berea College in her hometown. Lily May headed the storied Coon Creek Girls, a major “hillbilly music” star of the late 1930′s – 40′s era, when the group helped open John Lair’s “Renfro Valley Barn Dance” near Berea in 1939 and remained a star of the show – now in its sixth decade – until essentially disbanding in 1957, except for some occasional reunion appearances.
In August, 1979, John Lair planned auditions for members of a latter-day all-girl band in the vein of the Coon Creek Girls for his Renfro Valley Barn Dance. Learning of the auditions, Vicki bought an acoustic bass and tried out successfully. The band soon became so popular that finding a name for it became an absolute necessity, having been introduced each Saturday night simply as “the girls”. Lair decided on “The New Coon Creek Girls”.
The band left the show in 1983 during a contract dispute but returned to the case on a semi-regular basis in May, 1991, some six years after Lair’s death.
A talented songwriter and now playing bass and singing lead and harmony vocal parts, Vicki is also featured in a segment with the five-string banjo played in the mountain “clawhammer” way, exactly as she was taught by the inimitable Lily May Ledford. It’s great music and great showmanship. Of the band’s music she says “I love the close harmony and ‘drive’ of what we’re doing now. I couldn’t be happier with it.”

About the author

I enjoy researching Bluegrass, Bluegrass Gospel, and Country birthdays, anniversaries and interesting trivia dates. I am a piano/organ performance major who has taught privately and served as church accompanist since 1968 in North Carolina and Central Kentucky. Although classically trained, I appreciate all genres of music. My mother, who was also a church musician and taught public school music grades K-12, knew that Bluegrass music was the purest American music. She always introduced her students to this fine genre and began my musical studies with her at age 2. Bach to Berachah Valley, Mozart to Jimmy Martin, Sibelius to Stanley Brothers, the list goes on, I hope you find some moments of enjoyment and learn a few interesting facts along the way.
I am thankful for the many resources we have at our fingertips including Google. FaceBook and BluegrassBios by Wayne Rice. It was he who inspired me to tackle the task of trying to pass on knowledge about Bluegrass music. Thanks Wayne~!
Lou Ellen Wilkie

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.